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Two men have been given life sentences and will have to serve a combined total of at least 40 years for the murder of Aranit Lleshi in Bristol.
Aranit died of injuries he sustained during a violent clash between two groups over a cannabis factory in May 2022.
The factory, which had been set-up inside a property in Bloomfield Road, Brislington, contained around £95,000 worth of cannabis.
During an earlier trial at Bristol Crown Court, a jury heard how the criminal group who “owned” the cannabis crop were protecting it from another group who intended to steal it. Aranit was part of the group protecting the crop.
Following the trial, Brikel Palaj and Radian Lika were convicted of Aranit’s murder, while a third man – Nikola Palaj – was convicted of his manslaughter. A fourth man, Kastriot Mhillaj, admitted a charge of violent disorder prior to the trial taking place.
Today, the following sentences were given out:
- Brikel Palaj, 33, of Plumstead, London – sentenced to life imprisonment with a minimum term of 20 years (pictured above left).
- Radian Lika, 35, of Islington, London – sentenced to life imprisonment with a minimum term of 20 years (pictured above right).
- Nikola Palaj, 28, of Plumstead, London – sentenced to five years in prison.
- Kastriot Mhillaj, of no fixed address – sentenced to 18 weeks in prison.
Following the hearing, Senior Investigating Officer DCI Phil Walker said: “It’s tragic a young man lost his life during this clash between two organised crime groups over a cannabis factory.
“Both groups were from the London area and targeted a quiet south Bristol neighbourhood to engage in wanton violence with weapons, witnessed by those who live there as well as passers-by.
“There’s often organised criminality behind the production of cannabis and we know these groups are using residential houses in streets like this in the hope they can ply their exploitative trade under the radar. It’s crucial for members of the public to remain vigilant and report any suspicions around drug activity in their neighbourhood to the police.
“We’d like to express our continuing sympathies to the family of the victim, who’ve been left devastated by his death, and want to reiterate our thanks to all the witnesses who provided statements and evidence in this case – their assistance has ultimately helped us bring these dangerous men to justice.”
Stella Waata, Senior Crown Prosecutor for the CPS South West Complex Casework Unit, said: “While incidents like this are rare, it shows the risk posed by organised crime groups and why we and our police partners are determined to work together to dismantle them.
“They bring untold misery to our communities, and we will robustly prosecute cases, particularly those involving weapons. I would like to thank the local community for supporting the investigation and those who came forward as witnesses.”
DCI Walker added: “We’d encourage anyone with suspicions about a property in their neighbourhood being used for illegal drug activity to report their observations and concerns to the police – either by calling 101, contacting us online, or providing information anonymously through the independent charity Crimestoppers.”